Tiny homes could help young people off the street, says homeless youth
At 140 square feet, it is cozy. But it has a warm bed and a roof overhead, which, advocates say, could make the house feel like a home to any of the 2,000 youths who are homeless every night in Toronto.
The micro model home was built by young people who have themselves been homeless, with support from Eva’s, a non-profit youth shelter.
“As we sat and talked about what it would look like to have more affordable housing options in the city for young people between 16 and 24, one thing that came up was this idea of a tiny house,” said Hawa Mire, Innovation Strategy Director for Eva’s Initiatives for Homeless Youth. “You say tiny house and people just light up.”
The home features a small bedroom, bathroom, and sitting area -- the basics of what a young person in search of shelter would require, noted Dave Bedini, Eva’s Program Lead.
“Their needs would be pretty simplified: a couch to sit on, a TV on the wall, and a bed to sleep in.”
Draco, a 21-year-old who did not give his lastname, moved to Toronto from a small village in British Columbia in 2017 and was homeless for a year in his new city.
“I was really scared because I didn’t know if I was able to survive, I didn’t know how to budget for food and things like that, I had never been on my own.”
He eventually found shelter at Eva’s – and helped create the tiny home. His team says city hall could consider tiny home communities as an affordable housing model – similar to initiatives piloted in American cities like Seattle and Kansas City.
Affordable Housing Chair Ana Bailao says she is open to considering tiny homes as part of a broader housing strategy. “I think we need to start exploring some of these solutions, create some pilot projects in the city, and see how good they are. We know that other cities have done it.”
The design team at Eva’s says any details about cost and location would have to be explored down the road if the city ever considered the initiative, but that the 11 surplus lands that council recently committed to affordable housing projects could function as temporary locations for the tiny homes.
Having been through months of homelessness, Draco insists a tiny home is better than no home at all, said.
“Often times youth who are thrown into these situations, they don’t know what they’re up against, they don’t know what they’re doing, they’re either confused or uneducated or dealing with mental illness, and I was a lot of those things.”